Working Group Forms to Study Blockchain in Healthcare

Oct. 6, 2016
The Hyperledger Project has established a healthcare working group to house and foster technical and business-level conversations about blockchain applications.

The Hyperledger Project, a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project created to advance blockchain technology, has established a healthcare working group to house and foster technical and business-level conversations about appropriate applications.

 A blockchain—most commonly associated with digital currency—is a da ta structure that can be timed-stamped and signed using a private key to prevent tampering. Applied to healthcare, it would offer the potential of a shared platform that decentralizes health data without compromising the security of sensitive information. This model could lift the costly burden of maintaining patient’s medical histories away from the hospitals.

The Hyperledger Healthcare (HLHC) Working Group’s work will focus on identifying opportunities for near-term collaboration between participants on common software to implement a given application. If appropriately scoped and resourced, these conversations could lead to one or more proposals for new software development efforts to be hosted at Hyperledger.

“There are two really important questions to focus on. First, since there are so many use cases where blockchain could be used in healthcare, where will blockchain (plus smart contracts) provide capabilities not readily enabled by pre-existing approaches? said Dr. John Mattison, M.D., assistant medical director and chief health information officer at Kaiser Permanente, in a prepared statement. "Second, as blockchain capabilities and variants continue to evolve rapidly, how do we support parallel initiatives that don’t create forking that introduces friction into the flow of data and services? “We are truly sitting on a ‘TCP/IP moment’, and while it’s impossible to declare ‘what’ the solution is to avoiding that forking, we can come together in this workgroup to define ‘how’ we collaborate to minimize the risks of inadvertently introducing friction through forking.”

The HLHC Working Group will center on discovery and exploration of healthcare-related blockchain use cases that address real world problems. Initially, the group will focus on fundamental Distributed Ledger applications, such as establishing registries, interoperability and identities. Technical opportunities will also be discussed. In time, the discussion will expand to more advanced topics, such as smart contracts and process automation.

Another working group member is Merve Unuvar, IBM Blockchain product leader, who is quoted as saying, “The beating heart of the emerging Healthcare Blockchain will be powered by Hyperledger enabling data sharing, privacy and interoperability.”

The HLHC Working Group includes participants from organizations including Accenture, Gem, Hashed Health, Kaiser Permanente and IBM.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently announced 15 winners of the “Use of Blockchain in Health IT and Health-Related Research Challenge.”

ONC received more than 70 submissions from a wide range of individuals, organizations and companies addressing ways that Blockchain technology might be used in health and health IT to protect, manage, and exchange electronic health information.

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